When asking who owns your website, you’re likely asking in the context of “who controls your website” so we’ll address that first. If you have a mortgage on your house, who owns your house, you or the bank? The same principle applies to your website. Most website design agencies will assign full control of your website to you once you have fully paid for it. Typically, this is about the time your website launches. If you work out a flexible payment plan with your website designer to spread out your website cost, they will likely retain control of your website until your final payment is made. This practice is common and understandable as web design companies need a way to hedge against the risk of a bad client walking away with a website without paying for it.
The other aspect of website ownership is in the legal context of actual copyright ownership. The ownership of your website copyright remains with the website designer until a written transfer is made. When choosing a website design company, it is important to know how they handle copyrights so you can be certain you’ll have the ability to control your website and own the copyright. At Daor Design, we make a practice of painlessly transferring your website copyright to you upon request. If you have invested in a new website for your business, we think you should be free to fully control and own it at the end of the day.
There are also some benefits to registering your website with the Copyright Office. We recommend you consult with an attorney to discuss your options.